Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Leviathan Wednesday: Manhunter 10, 11, & 12

People who frequented this site back in 2019 know that I had a Leviathan Theory. Ted Kord was Leviathan. That was my theory and I was sticking to it. 

When it was revealed that Mark Shaw was Leviathan, I was a bit blind sided. Sure, in retrospect, many of the clues pointed to Shaw. But it still felt like it came out of left field. I know that is because I was a bit too married to my guess.

I found Leviathan to be an intriguing anti-hero though, still do. His goal is for truth to win out, for their to be no secrets, and for the destiny of humanity to be in the hands of the people, not shadowy organizations perpetuating a never-ending game of trickery.

With that in mind, I began this deep dive into Mark Shaw's history. And all I can say is after reviewing a decade of stories, Shaw being Leviathan makes more and more sense. Today's three parter from Manhunter #10, #11, and #12 really shows how Shaw came to his current beliefs.

In this arc, multiple spy organizations and shady cabals are vying to get their hands on some unknown alien weapon. Shaw has to get the tech into the hands of the 'rightful owners'. As the tale unfolds, you see Shaw's greed for new technology as well as showing him just how many secretive groups are out there trying to gather power for themselves.

Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale with art by Doug Rice, you can see just how this adventure was a couple of giant steps down the road to the ultimate destiny of Leviathan.

Settle in. This is a 3 parter being reviewed. On to the books.

'Finders Keepers' opens in the post-Invasion Australia. There, Dundee-esque bushman Jeremiah Heep is combing the outback. He has been hired by the Southern Cross Salvage Corporation to find abandoned alien technology from the prior war.

But when he stumbles on a large alien warbot, he sees his golden ticket. He quits the company and puts the warbot up for auction to the highest bidder. I guess there is no honor among thieves.

The Southern Cross is upset. After all, Heep surely found the technology while hired by them.

So they ask Shaw to go and retrieve the technology for a fee.

I love this set of panels as it really has a Leviathan feel to it. Shaw will eschew his fee if they will pay him off in technology. Remember, Leviathan had amalgamated all sorts of technology to gain the advantage and power he wielded.

To know where to retrieve the technology, Shaw has to win the online auction.

He hunts down an old foe, Ashley Powell, the child molester from Manhunter #5.

Powell has once again slipped out of the hands of the police. And it seems she has powers, the ability to manipulate computer data. (Remember how in Manhunter #5 how all data on her vanished from the police's files?)

Shaw makes what seems to be a slimy deal. If Powell uses her powers to make it seem like Shaw won the auction, he'll let her go free.

This seems vile, even for a former super-villain. 

Thankfully, it was a bluff. He sends Powell up the river after she fixes the auction. Whew. It would be hard to root for a guy who would work with a pedophile.

Still, knowing how Leviathan also was able to worm into databases and encrypted computer systems and can't help but wonder if he found more uses for her later. Or maybe found a way to replicate her powers.

I'll also remind you how Leviathan toppled all the spy organizations within the DCU. He felt that so many groups seemed to make trouble only for the purpose of making trouble.

On this mission, Shaw has to compete with any number of them - the Japanese Yakuza (first seen in the Dumont arc from the start of this series), the KGB, Checkmate, and LexCorp!

Incredible! Four shady operatives descending on one piece of mecha! No wonder Shaw thinks so little of these groups.

To get Shaw into the game quickly, the Southern Cross scientists outfit his usual suit with a sort of manga-style flight exoskeleton. He sprouts wings and flies down under.

Now this surely was to give artist Doug Rice a little breathing room to showcase his anime style of art.

But looking at this in 2021, Shaw has to see how adding new tech to his own arsenal makes him even more dangerous.

Meanwhile, Heep realizes that he probably isn't heading to a payday. With 5 different groups on the scene to steal the warsuit, it is time he looks out for himself. 

He activates it.

In part two, appropriately named 'Losers Weepers', Shaw arrives.

But no one is willing to just roll over.

Shaw gets jumped by the LexCorp goons.

He sheds the exosuit so he can fight in more suitable togs.

Meanwhile, all the other groups, including a Rocket Red, skirmish. 

Everyone wants this thing.

Shaw has to be wondering what will happen if any of these groups get a hold of this thing. Another brick in his distrust of spies and operatives.

Realizing he needs to get a better handle of the situation, Heep activates the robot.

The problem is the robot needs a pilot. It actually sends out tendrils and grabs Heep. Whether he likes it or not, he's driving.

For those just joining, 4 industrial and governmental espionage groups and Mark Shaw are all hoping to grab a leftover alien warsuit left behind in the Invasion. 

When Heep turns the device on, these different groups, fighting each other to gain this warsuit, suddenly need to team up against it to survive.

And they do team up.

Makes me wonder if this was the first time Shaw might have seen how powerful all these agencies would be if they were folded into one.

Is this a mini-Leviathan?

In the middle of the fight, the cockpit opens up and Heep's remains fall out in a heap. Whatever this thing is, it isn't meant for human pilots, sucking them dry.

And when it tries to grab Oyabun's son, Shaw knocks the Yakuza underboss out of the way and jumps into the mecha.

It's sort of the oldest trick in the book.

If the outside of this thing is indestructible, maybe the inside isn't. 

Shaw begins ripping the thing apart from the pilot seat.

Just like that, it's over.

The machine shorts out, spitting out Shaw as it does.

With the prize destroyed, the different factions scurry away like rats.

Southern Cross is still happy. They'll still scavenge what they can. 

I really liked this story, more I think with the understanding of Shaw's eventual destiny of becoming Leviathan. First, we see his interest in obtaining technology and improving his own capabilities. Next, we see how even the tiniest thing can draw the attention of the many covert operations in the world, all hoping to gain an advantage. And lastly, we actually see him lead all these different groups. That all says Leviathan.

I haven't pointed out specifics of the art. But Rice does a great job with the mecha scenes, giving us a sort of Giant Robo anime feel to the proceedings. Great dynamism here.

Overall grade: B+

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